For northern Palm Beach County, President’s Day weekend, and Valentine’s Day, is for art lovers. From February 14-16, Abacoa’s main thoroughfares will transform into an enormous outdoor gallery for the thirtieth annual ArtiGras Fine Arts Festival. It’s a massive undertaking, with 300 artists from around the region and country setting up tents along nearly two miles of road, presenting work in 13 different mediums. And while the collection of artists and artisans is vast, each person selected goes through a vigorous blind-jury process, ensuring that all the work on display is original and the best in their respective mediums. All of this rings through with festivalgoers—all 85,000 of them, one of the best-attended art festivals in Palm Beach County—as they meander through the arty promenade, conversing with the artists themselves, while striking up a deal.
ArtiGras’ 2015 commemerative Poster
Painting by Sarah LaPierre
The art festival easily receives 1,000-plus applications each year for the show, so whittling down to the final 300 is a painstaking process. Through an extensive blind jury process with a five member panel of judges (two working artists and three other art professionals), each artist application (including photos, artist statement and artwork descriptions) is examined by category with an emphasis on “artistic excellence and a well balanced show.” The top picks move on to the following rounds until the top 264 artists are chosen. The final 26 spots are fielded by last year’s award-winners (14 in total, one in each medium and one from the Emerging Artist group), 10 invited artists, and a group of first-time art festival presenters.
Now in its eighth year, the Emerging Artist program offers artists and artisans a chance to turn their passion into a profession. Open to artists that have never showcased their work in a fine art festival, and live within 60 miles of Jupiter, this locals-only sort of deal helps promote some of the talent in our own backyard. Having attended ArtiGras as a festivalgoer since I was a kid, long before it made its way to Abacoa, last year I was lucky enough to present some of my work in woodwork with the Emerging Artists. My small company, Makai Project, which is based in Jupiter, specializes in handcrafted skateboards and handplanes (for bodysurfing) and we were looking for a place to test the waters, get the product out there and gauge reaction from the community. The program helped us wade through the minutia of preparing for the event with workshops led by veteran artists who have made careers at these events.
A few skateboards from Makai Project.
An art festival is as much selling yourself as it is your work—you man your tent, speak with patrons, talk shop, that kind of thing. It can be a rather nerve-racking experience, especially for someone new to the whole deal. The workshops helped dispel some of the anxiety, dispensing some practical advice not just on what to expect at the show, but how to price your work, talk with customers (everyone is looking for a deal), and most of all, enjoy the experience.
This year, the jury selected a crop of 11 Emerging Artists. Presenting work in fiber, painting, ceramics, drawing, and jewelry, lots of jewelry, the works and artists vary in discipline and product. Here’s a quick peek at the selected few:
Betty Beck, hailing from Royal Palm Beach, is a jewelry artist who creates her pieces using wire weaving and off-loom bead weaving techniques.
Ashley Broniszewski from North Palm Beach is the artistic mind behind Sun & Stone Jewelry. Specializing in custom bracelets, Broniszewski hand wraps gold and silver-plated wire with semiprecious stones, freshwater pearls and crystal.
Mary Catello and Teri Salomoni are collaborative artists that utilize collected and foraged material to create their natural, sculpted work. The Boca Raton residents start with palm inflorescence, which is stripped and dried, then woven together over handmade metal and reed frames.
Lori Charnow, a painter from Boynton Beach, specializes in reverse painting on clear glass (plates and glassware), creating functional art for the home.
Davie artist Susan Gillingham finds her inspiration in the sea. Working in oil, her paintings of the ocean and waves convey the power of the deep blue while reflecting the subtleties of light and the texture of the water with an eye only a surfer could have.
Artist Lisa Johnson strives to capture a sense of place in her work. The Royal Palm artist’s work is created by a milieu of techniques, including traditional metalsmithing, ceramics, glasswork and a multitude of jewelry design techniques. Her jewelry encapsulates South Florida with an abstract take on the area’s unique flora and fauna, as exemplified in the above necklace, aptly named “Jellyfish.”
Ceramic artist Alyssa Ligmont uses an arsenal of techniques to create her sculpted works. Coming from North Lauderdale, Ligmont uses wheel work, coil, slab and pinch techniques to form the ceramics, which is followed by multiple layers of under glazes and glazes to decorate the surface before being fired in oxidation or reduction atmospheres.
Wellington artist Laurietta Oakleaf finds her inspiration in the animal kingdom, especially horses. A Para-Equestrian dressage rider, Oakleaf’s art, a combination of charcoal and pencil drawing, show the beauty of the equines.
Jupiter artist Kathryn Peric’s work takes its cues from Medieval and Renaissance scribes. Her Fresco-style paintings start atop birch panels finished with authentic lime plasters, where she then paints “Illuminated Fresco Initials” using acrylic, metallic and water-base paints, as well as gold-leaf before sealing everything in wax.
Jewelry artist Christine Smith goes bold with her designs. The North Palm Beach jeweler uses semi-precious stones, shells, pearls and fabrics to create her baubles that are perfect for the Palm Beach lifestyle.
Virginia “Ginny the Bead Lady” Warner’s jewelry comes from the sea. Using unaltered sea glass found in the Bahamas where Ginny calls home, the glass is then accented with glass beads, pearls, crystals, shells and fabric to add to the natural beauty of the tumbled glass.